KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Ivica Kostelic was greedy. The Croatian skier wanted gold and to tie an Olympic family record in the super combined Friday.
Kostelic, 34, was second to Swiss Sandro Viletta by .34 of a second in slushy snow at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort.
He became the second oldest Olympic Alpine medalist, the first Alpine skier to win four Olympic silver medals – the only color he’s known – and the first Winter Olympian to win three straight silver medals in the same event.
Despite all that, he was first asked if he was disappointed with yet another silver.
“This is the question that is often said to me,” he said. “I’m obviously specialized in silver. Everyone likes the winners. The Americans, they say the second one is the first loser. This is not completely true.
“I could be in a hospital. I could be picking garbage in Calcutta or dying of hunger in Africa. Anyone who complains about silver or bronze doesn’t have the right to do so. Gold is the ultimate aim for us, but I’m happy with silver as well.”
In the heat of the moment, Kostelic said he was a bit unhappy when he crossed the finish and saw he was behind Viletta with six more racers to go.
But then Kostelic, as more racers finished behind the both of them, thought about the No. 10.
Ten was on his mind before he skied into seventh place in the downhill portion of the event Friday morning, becoming the favorite for gold as the only strong technical skier in the top 15 going into the afternoon slalom.
Ten has been on his mind for a while. Kostelic won his fourth medal Friday. Plenty of Winter Olympians have done that.
But add it to his retired younger sister’s medal total, and you get 10. That tied the record for most career Winter Olympic medals by a brother and sister. They matched retired Italian cross-country skiers Manuela and Giorgio di Centa.
Americans Jack and Shirley Babashoff won 11 swimming medals at the Summer Games.
“I’m very proud to point at a fact that this is the 10th (Winter) Olympic medal for family Kostelic,” he said. “We didn’t talk about that a lot, but people were often questioning what would be special about winning the next medal. The first thing on my mind is this No. 10. A lot of sportsmen have more Olympic medals, but no families.”
Both Janica and their father, Ante, were on hand Friday. Ante was tapped to set the slalom course layout, winning a lottery of national team coaches of highly ranked skiers. This fortunate turn of fate gave Kostelic an advantage.
Janica is the most decorated women’s Alpine skier in Olympic history with four golds and two silvers. She retired due to injuries at age 24 in 2007.
“Janica told me she is super happy,” Kostelic said. “That’s all.”
Kostelic has had a tough season so far, coming off his 11th career surgery and 10th to his right knee in May.
He’s posted one top-10 during the World Cup season after being among the top five in the slalom and super combined standings each of the previous six seasons.
“One of my worst seasons,” said Kostelic, who debuted on the World Cup in 1998. “This is a bright light.”
He will try for Kostelic medal No. 11 in the slalom on Feb. 22. He is the defending silver medalist, and it will likely be his final Olympic event.
He’s greedy. He wants gold.
“I am motivated,” he said. “This medal puts a lot of pressure off of me.”